Thimphu : President Pratibha Patil arrived here Wednesday on a four-day visit to attend the coronation of Bhutan’s fifth king Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.
In an unusual gesture that underlines the special ties between the two countries, the fourth King Jigme Singey Wangchuck, the father of the king-in-waiting, received her at the Paro airport.
Later, the younger Wangchuck received her at the hotel here.
United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, along with son and MP Rahul Gandhi, daughter Priyanka and son-in-law Robert Vadra, are also set to attend the coronation ceremonies.
The Gandhis have been invited by Bhutan’s royal family as they share a friendship that spans decades right from the time India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited Bhutan riding a yak nearly half a century ago.
India and Bhutan modernized their ties last year when they signed a revised treaty of friendship that gave Thimphu more freedom in running its foreign policy and in military purchases.
The festivities marking the 29-year-old king’s coronation would continue for 42 days. Bollywood icon Shah Rukh Khan and Indian dance maestro Astad Deboo are set to spice up the spectacle designed for the big moment.
Bhutan is an idyllic nation that prefers to measure its wealth in terms of Gross National Happiness.
It saw the last coronation nearly 35 years ago in 1974, when the fourth king, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, was crowned at the age of 17.
The coronation comes barely six months after Bhutan’s historic first democratic election and underlines the royal family’s commitment to pushing Bhutan ahead on the path of democracy while continuing with hereditary monarchy that inspires a lot of affection and respect among the Bhutanese people.